Thursday, 7 January 2021

New Year 2021

At Piazza del Duomo, Milano on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011.

To quote UNESCO’s wish for 2021:

“One word. One hope. One goal: PEACE”.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2021)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Rawlings: Folk Hero. Despot. Enigma.

Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings photographed in 1984 (CREDIT: Genevieve Chauvel/Sygma)

It would be no exaggeration to assert that Jerry John Rawlings dominated the politics of Ghana as no other leader did, with the sole exception of Kwame Nkrumah. As with Nkrumah, Rawlings rode the crest of an enormous level of national popularity, the product of a personal charisma that he was able to project to the masses. Yet, in life and death his legacy as a military ruler and civilian leader is often the subject of polarised debate. For some he was the saviour of Ghana, the man who rescued his country from the pit of economic degeneration and enabled it to regain by large measure its previous mantle as the ‘Black Star of Africa’. To others he was a demagogue and an authoritarian who held his country hostage for two decades during which he betrayed the principles he had enjoined his countrymen to embrace when he first came to national prominence. The contradictions in both the personality, as well as the leadership of Rawlings are stark: many who saw him up close considered him humble and down-to-earth. A man with the common touch. Yet his extravagant ways of expression and theatrical public presence were more than suggestive of a flamboyant egotism. He consistently spoke as an idealist, but often had to justify many of his major decisions in the realm of pragmatism. In a 1981 interview, he described himself as a “moderate” who believed in “peaceful revolution”, an irony given the political violence that characterised his first stint in power and the first decade of his second coming. He promised a “people’s democracy” but ended up presiding over an autocracy. The blood spilled during his regimes made some dub him an African Robespierre. For them, Rawlings was the principal author of a form of diabolical vengeance when the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, of which he was elected Chairman, sanctioned the execution of senior military officers. A dominating, larger-than-life presence, he alternately charmed, cajoled, inspired, beguiled and terrified Ghanaians. But Rawlings was as much a phenomenon of self-invention as he was shaped and moulded by the forces propelling Ghanaian political history. Many refuse to acknowledge or seek to downplay the serious fractures in the severely politicised Ghanaian military which pointed to an inevitable ugly explosion with or without the agency of Rawlings. And while his detractors point to his coup of 1981 as an illegal and hypocritical enterprise driven by egotistical ambition, they fail to give appropriate consideration to his putsch as a bold attempt by Rawlings to innovate an alternative system of governance to that which had failed Ghana and other parts of Black Africa. For Rawlings was, at least at the outset of his second stint in power, determined, with the ideological tutoring of the “Legon Left”, to map out an economic programme that would remove Ghana from a harmful, but seemingly ineradicable dependence on the West. Therefore any purposeful and objective examination of the legacy of Rawlings cannot be solely based on the man alone and his perceived successes and failings, but must necessarily comprehend an honest reflection on the part of his countrymen about enduring problems of tribal sentiment, endemic corruption, and institutional failings that have prevented Ghana from transforming itself into an economically independent post-colonial African nation.

Friday, 20 November 2020

Adeyinka Makinde Interviewed on The Write Now Show

My appearance on "The Write Now Show", a cable TV show hosted by Judy Saxon and Charles Redner in Laguna Woods Village in southern California.

It is a show dedicated to "Writers, Writing and the Arts".

It was recorded on Friday, October 23rd via Zoom and uploaded online after it was shown on the cable channel.

We discussed a range of topics that included my biographies on the world boxing champion Dick Tiger and the one on Frankie DePaula, the boxer who was murdered by the Mafia. Also mention is made of my essay contributions to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Friday, 13 November 2020

Flight Lieutenant Jerry John RAWLINGS (1947-2020)

The Former Military and Civilian Head of State of Ghana photographed in contemplative mode during a press conference held on January 20th 1982 after seizing power in a military coup on New Year’s Eve 1981.

Photo Credit: A. Abbas.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Watching James Bond with Admiral Wey

A cropped photo of the then Rear Admiral Wey at a social gathering at our home in Hendon, London during the early 1970s which presumably was taken by my Father who was then serving as the Deputy-Defence Advisor at the Nigerian High Commission. 

The passing of James Bond icon Sean Connery reminds me of a visit by Vice Admiral J.E.A. Wey to our home in Apapa, Lagos in the 1970s.

This was after his retirement following the overthrow of General Yakubu Gowon in whose regime he had served as the Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters.

A video tape of the James Bond movie "From Russia, With Love" was playing in the sitting room during which time Wey and my Father, his former aide-de-camp, were often in quiet conversation. That is apart from when Wey broke off from the conversation to use his walking staff to playfully poke me or other youngsters around on our sides or behind our necks.

He was always teasing kids.

He also kept referring to himself as the "Old Man", his nickname among the senior military officers; making an accompanying joke on each occasion.

Anyway, when late in the movie, the fight scene between Sean Connery (James Bond) and Robert Shaw (Red Grant, the SPECTRE assassin) was happening, Wey and my Dad stopped chatting and became absorbed in the movie.

When Connery finally overcomes Shaw, he's about to leave the train compartment before he decides to go back and retrieve the wallet containing gold sovereigns which Shaw had earlier relieved him of at gunpoint. Then as Connery is leaving he says to the dead Grant:

"You won't be needing this, old man".

The mention of "old man" was cue for Wey to let off his trademark deep, throaty laughter.

Although this film is silent you can see a Royal Navy admiral turn to look in the direction of Wey when he laughs at the 14-second mark:

Newsreel of Nigerian Naval Delegates at the Royal Navy Equipment Exhibition | September 1971

He was quite a jolly character.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Monday, 2 November 2020

To the Shade of Sean Connery

Sean Connery

It is no exaggeration to write that as the star of the first movies about the British Intelligence agent James Bond, Sean Connery was part of a cultural phenomenon that shaped the 1960s. And in defining the physical and spoken character of Ian Fleming’s hero, he became the standard by which all the other actors who have followed him in the role are judged. It is also no exaggeration to place him on the mantle of among the great cinematic stars of the 20th century. This achievement was due to his persistence in successfully transcending the limitations which the extraordinary success of the Bond movies threatened to place on his range and competence as an actor.

Connery always wanted to be known as more than a beefcake or a matinee idol, and he was quick to appreciate that the character of Bond presented an albatross from which needed to escape. He proved his abilities in ‘serious’ roles such as The Hill (1965) and The Offence (1972). He was excellent as Danny Dravot in John Houston’s version of the Kipling story The Man Who Would Be King. Houston had wanted to film it in the early 1950s with Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable, but which thankfully for cinema audiences was “delayed” for almost a quarter of a century. Some critics posit The Hill as his best ‘serious’ role, but there are many other roles from which to choose, including from his earlier work when he was developing as an actor such as Hell Drivers (1957), and those when he was on the cusp of stardom such as his starring role as an 11th century Scottish king in the TV version of the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth (1961).

His ineffable style of delivery of one-liners in the Bond movies were part of his skill which revolutionised the screen hero, as was his projection of masculinity. One of the highlights of Connery’s screen career surely has to be his train brawl with Robert Shaw (‘Red Grant’) in From Russia, With Love (1963). It was a realistic mix of choreographed boxing, hapkido and street fighting techniques that breathed new life into the tired formula of big screen fights which Hollywood favoured up to that period in time.

Later in his career, his screen presence remained intact when sharing the spotlight with rising talents such as Kevin Costner and Wesley Snipes. There were many accolades along the way, but his greatest triumph was when in 1988, he won an Oscar for his performance in The Untouchables”; the judges, like the audiences, evidently forgave his portrayal of an Irish cop with his trademark Scottish burr.

His Scottish heritage as well as his birth into urban poverty defined him. The son of a factory worker whose Irish Catholic forebears had migrated to Scotland, Connery’s relentless quest to be somebody never left him. The willingness of the media to portray him as the archetypal “stingy Scot” rode roughshod of the fact that his shrewdness was not remarkable for many who lived a childhood of grinding poverty. And it was a forgivable aspect of his personality given the predatory con artists which pervade the show business industry. Connery himself would suffer from poor financial advice which led to several costly legal entanglements that almost left him bankrupt.

Less forgivable were the allegations of misogyny including physical violence against his first wife, the actress Diane Cilento. Others charged him with hypocrisy for not living in Scotland, the country for which he remained an avowed proponent for national independence, while enjoying the life of a tax exile from the United Kingdom.

But these imperfections did not dim the view of many in his homeland who once voted him as the “world’s greatest living Scot”, and who in death persist in acclaiming him as not only one of the greatest ever Scotsmen, but also the last of the truly great cinema actors.

Thomas Sean Connery KBE was born on August 25th 1930 and died on October 31st 2020.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

The Most Classic of Classic Bond Movie Lines?

James Bond encounters a deadly laser gun in the film “Goldfinger”.

James Bond: “Do you expect me to talk?”

Auric Goldfinger: “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

Scene from the 1964 United Artists movie Goldfinger which starred Sean Connery as James Bond and Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.